I started writing this yesterday in the midst of a mental break from a Faculty Colloquium paper, mostly as a goofy poetic exercise: there are million parodies of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Modern Major-General,” but almost none of them actually preserve the demanding three-beat feminine rhyme scheme that made the original such a fine piece of craftsmanship. (Lesson in poetics: “graduate” and “glad you ate” is doing it successfully. “Graduate” and “delicate” is not).
Part way through the writing process, I stumbled across writer/performer/hoolahoopist Revolva‘s Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey, whose tour promoters asked her to perform “for exposure” on an arena tour whose single stops will gross more than an ordinary human being (in first-world America, no less) makes in his or her lifetime.
I don’t necessarily want to comment on these issues, for a couple of reasons:
- One, I’m insanely busy (see: lack of recent blog posts), and articles like Revolva’s open letter show us the important dialogue is already happening. Repeating what 100,000 people are already saying better & more succinctly, apart from showing solidarity, is not a good use of the time I don’t have.
- Two, this is now a “viral” issue, which changes the way information is born, lives, and dies on the Internet. My comments would enter a cacophonic sea of armchair punditry and be washed down the drain of memory a couple of days with no lasting impact. Unless your name is Hammurabi, the shelf life of poetry far outlasts the shelf life of political commentary. It’s the form we should use to comment on current events if we still want to be relevant in three weeks, let alone three centuries.
- Three, I’m worth 9¢ a word, and nobody’s paying me to respond to these issues with a detailed, insightful critical article on the subject. In that sense, I’m not sure there’s any article I could write that would show my support or argue my point as well as not writing one will.
So, with this in mind, I offer the following pastiche without comment, and without necessarily relating it to the issues at hand. Virtually any skilled work that is woefully undervalued today in monetary terms—whether we mean making art, or responding to it, or teaching people about it—is only going to succeed by cutting out all of the people that leech off the creativity of others. That is to say, indie is the future of anyone who isn’t already the Rolling Stones, and doesn’t want to ride the major-label, major-studio, major-company train straight to hell. I can now produce a CD of my music cheaper than Jive Records can. I can publish an elegant hardcover book cheaper than either Simon or Schuster, or both of them put together. This is the way things are going, and until there’s some kind of revolution at the megacorporate level, it’s the best chance we have for survival within our profession of helping the world around us avoid becoming sucky, derivative, and ignorant.
(On a side note, I’m aware of the irony of giving this poem away on the Internet for free. Enjoy!)
An Indie Individual
(with apologies to W.S.Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan)
I am the very model of an indie individual,
I market my own product, both the front-end and residual,
I have a sense of humour and a gift for high hilarity,
With three degrees in English and a minor in precarity;
I calculate my income tax with strategies deductional,
My work-at-home expenses are quite flexible and fluxional,
I navigate the channels that can put the working schlubs at ease,
Negotiating Council grants and governmental subsidies:
I argue for a living wage and help my clients fathom all
The reasons why “exposure” is degrading and anathemal;
In short, across all media in matters print and digital,
I am the very model of an indie individual.
I know the feudal jester’s art of couching perspicacity
In deprecating satire of remarkable audacity,
And champion subalterns in a diatribe meandering
Between extremes of candour and of sycophantic pandering;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with garbage bin interiors,
Subsisting on a substance that would poison my superiors;
I’m welcome at a party in whatever you may see me in, (bothered for a rhyme)
A coat of rags, or garbage bags, or something more Bohemian,
Yet never fazed or flustered by a gala, ball, or gallery,
And I can tell on sight a token stipend from a salary;
In markets fair, you corporate hacks, I’ll handily outbid you all:
I am the very model of an indie individual!
And yet I have acquired skills in factory obedience,
And I can steam a latte from the basest of ingredients,
Or work in a department store and teach you how to trim a tree,
Or frame the fearful layers of a Quarter Pounder’s symmetry,
Or pin a corporate logo to the very sleeve my heart is on;
And all of this would render me a legendary artisan,
Excepting one condition that conspires to diminish it—
I’m “working on a masterpiece,” but never seem to finish it—
But notwithstanding frequent failures to produce a work of art
That relegate me to a hapless critic and a clerk of art,
In matters of all media both analog and digital,
I am the very model of an indie individual!